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Law protects political speech rights of HOA residents

More than 50,000 developments in California fall under the regulation of homeowners' associations. The passage of SB 407 resulted from ongoing incidents of association boards preventing residents from expressing their political views or engaging in political activities. The new law affirms the rights of people to engage in political speech without interference from an HOA board.

The law stops associations from prohibiting peaceful assemblies during reasonable hours where people discuss elections, legislation or ballot measures. Associations can no longer make members pay fees or acquire liability insurance before using a community's common area. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that the law would prevent association boards from suppressing political speech.

The president of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law said that associations could no longer prevent constitutionally-protected expression. With the law now in place, association members will have the means to defend themselves from practices like fines and other threats from HOA boards determined to block routine political activities. Associations can no longer wage attacks on actions such as asking candidates to speak at forums or canvassing a neighborhood.

Despite this move by legislators to protect political speech, almost limitless possibilities remain for other sources of disputes with neighbors or an association. A person grappling with issues like a lack of transparency on a board, violations of covenants and residency rights might benefit from legal representation. An attorney could strive to resolve an HOA dispute by communicating the resident's rights to the board and filing a lawsuit when necessary. An attorney could investigate the bylaws and policies and document the client's right to certain activities or freedoms. Whether through negotiation or presentation of a case at trial, an attorney could work toward resolving the problem and potentially collect damages.

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